The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit to challenge the constitutionality of the federal False Claims Act, which requires whistleblowers to file their lawsuits in secret. The False Claims Act authorizes whistleblowers to file suit on the government’s behalf against a contractor engaged in fraudulent behavior and to share in the government’s reward. But the suit must be filed in secret until the Justice Department has time to evaluate the allegations. According to the ACLU, the statute’s secrecy requirements violate the First Amendment’s freedom-of-speech protections and prevent the public from learning about war fraud complaints in Iraq and elsewhere.
When the False Claims Act was amended in 1986, the secrecy provision was included to ensure that government contractors would not be alerted to any criminal investigations that might be ongoing at the time whistleblower employees file suit under the statute. In response to the ACLU’s suit, which named former President Bush’s appointee, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, the Justice Department has said that it will review the lawsuit and respond in court. To learn more, read the Associated Press story.